Lee A. Bordick
The Community Advisory Committee for the Reorganization Feasibility Study finished up its work on January 25, meeting for the 11th time since May.
“I want to thank the good folks of Ichabod Crane and Schodack for their unbelievable commitment to this process over the past nine months,” Ichabod Crane CSD Interim Superintendent Lee Bordick told the committee.
The next step in the study will be a final report, which will be based around discussions the committee had at its meetings. The report is expected in late February with public meetings planned in each community to answer questions from residents.
Consultants Provide “What If” Scenarios
At the final meeting on January 25, committee members saw a framework of what the final report will be as consultants provided two “what if” scenarios. Those scenarios provided what consultants called “a roadmap” of what a reorganized district might look like.
Consultants stressed the options should not be considered final as both districts likely would make changes.
“This doesn’t mean it’s the only way to go. These are a framework.” said consultant Doug Exley. “The final decisions will be made by your school officials. They’re the ones who should make those decisions because they know your schools the best and know what is best for your students.”
In fact, Mr. Bordick and Schodack CSD Superintendent Robert Horan said that only the first option should be discussed because it will be the basis for the final report. The second option was included by consultants to lower the cost of the first option by simply eliminating positions.
Instead, Mr. Horan said, school officials already plan to reduce costs of the first option – and thereby the final merger report – but in a more comprehensive way.
“The easy thing to do is to get rid of FTEs [full-time equivalency positions] but that means getting rid of programs and student opportunities,” Mr. Horan said. “We’re not going to do that. We’ll reduce costs by taking a close look at efficiencies and how we offer programs.”
Concerns About Tax Impact
As the consultants presented their analysis, committee members raised concerns about the financial impact for a reorganized school district.
Using the example of a $150,000 home, the analysis showed a tax increase for Ichabod Crane CSD homeowners and a tax decrease for Schodack CSD residents. The difference was a result of Schodack CSD homeowners currently paying more in school taxes than Ichabod Crane CSD homeowners.
As doubts were raised about whether Ichabod Crane CSD community members would support a school district merger if it meant a sizable tax increase, both Mr. Bordick and Mr. Horan stressed they had the same concern.
As a result, the two superintendents said they planned to use the final report as a framework to create a more detailed plan for a reorganized school district that would limit the tax impact to homeowners and still provide as many of the important opportunities for students that committee members identified.
Mr. Horan compared the report to a first draft budget in a district’s budget process. Both districts would use the report as a starting point and then make revisions to get to a plan that school officials hope would be acceptable to both communities.
“Please don’t think we’re going to settle on either option,” Mr. Horan stressed. “Like a draft one of a budget, we’re at the beginning point right now. A merger has to do two things: enhance or maintain student opportunities and create a program that is fiscally responsible for our communities. If it doesn’t do both, we’re not going to pursue a merger.”
(Posted February 9, 2012)